Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Happy Birthday Anna, you have (er, had?) Cervical Cancer

Yeah so, while I did get many wonderful things for my birthday today including musical theater show tickets, a rock that says #1 mom, a lovely necklace from my mom, a new floor mat for the kitchen, new running shoes and a beautiful sunrise this morning, I also got the results of a test that shows I have (er, had?) cervical cancer.

Many of you know that I have been dealing with abnormal pap tests for years. You might remember this post from April 2016 where I celebrated test results being benign. It is becoming clear now, however, that those results were not very thorough and probably missed something back then.

Feeling frustrated by my previous doctor’s laissez faire approach and lack of a plan, I switched to a female doctor thinking she might understand more personally what it’s like to have multiple abnormal paps, follow-up tests, clear results, more abnormal tests and repeat for years on end. She is extremely thorough, so when my first pap test with her came back as a high grade abnormality, she wasted no time in scheduling a colposcopy (where she looks closely at my cervix with a special scope) with a biopsy (where she took tissue samples to test for cancer).

Knowing that we did not intend to have any more children, with my blessing she took a very aggressive approach and took lots of samples for biopsy. Those results showed “endocervical adenocarcinoma in situ (at a minimum)”. Those are big words that say at the very least, there were pre-cancer cells on my cervix.

The treatment for endocervical adenocarcinoma is to surgically remove as much involved tissue as possible from the cervix, in hopes of negative margins. On 8/23 I had a procedure called a LEEP with Hysteroscopy and Dilation and Curettage in hopes of removing all of the involved tissue and to see exactly what was going on in my uterus. While I was asleep for the procedure she removed a huge chuck of my cervix for biopsy and she took a good long look at the tissue inside my uterus. This resulted in a pretty uncomfortable healing period with a full seven days of light duty and absolutely no running.

So I got the results yesterday and are what I expected, but with a few questions left unanswered.

“Histologic sections from the ectocervical tissue show prominent endocervical adenocarcinoma in situ.”
Translation: There’s lots of pre-cancer cells in the sample.

“Focally, there are areas exhibit confluent growth pattern, cribriforming architecture and adjacent desmoplastic reaction. These areas are qualified for a designation of microinvasive adenocarcinoma.”
Translation: There’s also some regular cancer in there, too.

“No lymphovascular space invasion is identified. The surgical resection margins are negative.”
Translation: The cancer is not in my lymph nodes, and the cancer cells are not to the edges of the sample, so the entire group of cancer cells was removed. (This is good news!)

So the way I understand it, it was a lot of pre-cancer, some regular cancer, and the doctor got all of it when she did the LEEP procedure. For reasons that are beyond my current knowledge base, I still have to go the next step to an oncologist to talk about a “simple” hysterectomy (the removal of my uterus and fallopian tubes, but not the ovaries, which control the hormones). This is why I wonder if I had cancer and she removed it, or if I have cancer and it still needs to be removed. This is unclear.

Apparently the fact that the cells were in part microinvasive adenocarcinoma (regular cancer and not pre-cancer) puts this case beyond my GYN and into a cancer-treating situation. I originally thought I had to wait three weeks to see the oncologist, but I was able to get in tomorrow! And there is a woman in the practice! Things are looking up, and there should be an end in sight.

Those of you who know me well know that I am a silver lining type. I can look on the bright side of pretty much any situation. I am not a victim of my circumstances. Things like this in life are happening for me, and not to me. There is something in this for me to learn. I already have learned so much.

Here are a few snippets:

Ladies, keep your GYN appointments. There are zero symptoms of cervical cancer until it is well beyond typical treatment. Don’t skip your appointment, and if you have an abnormal result don't freak out, but take it seriously.

If your doctor isn’t doing what you need him or her to do, switch doctors. There are many other options out there and if yours doesn’t do it for you, find someone who does.

I run 30 miles per week, am training for my second ultramarathon, take no medications, fill my body with healthy and whole foods, refrain from using chemicals on my body, use organic chemical-free feminine products, and take supplements to balance my health, and cancer still grew inside my body. I felt a lot of shame when this first came up for me. As though I had done something to cause this, or maybe hadn’t done enough to prevent it. That’s bullshit. It can happen to anyone and it is not my or anyone else’s fault.

I am so grateful that this is happening to me and not to one of the boys. I hear so many parents say as they watch their child suffer from illness that they wish they could take on what their child is going through. I am strong, I am healthy, and I can handle anything that comes at me. So I am glad that it is me and not them.

Lastly, things could always be worse. My cervical cancer is in stage 1A1. I do not need chemotherapy. I do not need radiation. I stayed on top of my own health and caught this early enough where worst case scenario is a hysterectomy. Others are not as lucky as me.

Photo Credit: Truth Potato